Palestinians, Israelis square off on UNESCO vote on Hebron

UNESCO is to vote on a resolution brought by the Palestinians, declaring Hebron's Old City, including where Israeli settlers live, a protected zone.The resolution was fast-tracked on the basis that the site was under threat.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Hebron in the occupied West Bank is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.

The United Nations' cultural arm will decide whether to declare the Old City of Hebron a protected zone this week, the latest Israeli-Palestinian spat at the international body.

Hebron in the occupied West Bank is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers, who live in a heavily fortified enclave near the site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee is expected to vote Friday on a resolution brought by the Palestinians declaring Hebron's Old City, including where the settlers live, an area of outstanding universal value.

Mohammad Hamayel explains the tug of war.

The resolution was fast-tracked on the basis that the site was under threat, with Palestinians accusing Israel of an "alarming" number of violations, including vandalism and damage to properties.

On Tuesday in a separate vote, the heritage committee backed a resolution condemning Israeli actions in Jerusalem, sparking Israeli anger.

Israel says the Hebron resolution – which refers to the city as "Islamic" – denies thousands of years of Jewish history there. 

Hebron claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating from the Chalcolithic period or more than 3,000 years BC, the UNESCO resolution said.

At various times it has been conquered by Romans, Jews, Crusaders and Mamluks.

If the resolution passes it would be seen as a victory for Palestinian diplomacy and would be cited by Israel as a fresh example of what it alleges is the UN's inherent anti-Israel bias.

In May, the Jewish state reacted furiously after UNESCO passed a separate resolution on Jerusalem, and has recently prevented UNESCO researchers from visiting Hebron.

The vote, which requires a two-thirds majority of those 21 countries that vote either in favour or against, is likely to be close, with both sides expressing quiet confidence.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies